Punjab govt mulls COVID-like lockdown to control smog in Lahore

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LAHORE: Punjab govt mulls COVID-like lockdown to control smog in Lahore. The Punjab government is contemplating the possibility of imposing Coronavirus-like restrictions in Lahore in order to control the worsening conditions of smog in the provincial capital, the Punjab government announced on Tuesday.

In accordance with sources, it is likely that the authorities will announce a complete shutdown on Wednesdays, during which all schools, markets, and factories will be closed.

As a result of this new policy, the government departments will operate with only 50% strength on Wednesday, the sources added, adding that it has also been advised that snap-checks should also be conducted during the weekends – on Saturday and Sunday.

It is believed that unusual traffic patterns in Lahore are the main reasons for the presence of smog in the city, whereas factory emissions are responsible for only 7% of the total pollution level.

According to sources, it has also been suggested that factories that violate the law be fined heavily as well as shut down if they continue to ignore the directives beyond a certain point.

As per the sources, the highest levels of smog are recorded on the first three days of the week – Monday through Wednesday – because that is when the most air pollution occurs.

Life expectancy is reduced as a result of air pollution

As a result of increasing air pollution in Pakistan, life expectancy in the most polluted parts of the country like Lahore, Sheikhupura, Kasur and Peshawar may shorten by at least seven years, according to a report released in August by the University of Chicago Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) in its Air Quality Life Index (AQLI).

A recent study by AQLI, a pollution index that translates particulate air pollution into the impact it has on life expectancy, indicates that particulate pollution is the second greatest threat to human health in Pakistan, after heart disease, causing an average reduction of 3.9 years of life.

The average Pakistani resident could gain 3.9 years of life if the country meets WHO guidelines that limit the average annual concentration of PM 2.5 to 5 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Contrary to this, malnutrition among children and mothers, as well as maternal and neonatal disorders, result in a 2-year reduction of life expectancy on average.

There are 240 million people in Pakistan who live in areas where there are higher levels of particulate pollution than what is recommended by the World Health Organization on an annual basis. It was found in the report that 98.3% of the population of the country lives in areas in which the level of air pollution exceeds its own national air quality standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter.

According to the AQLI, from 1998 to 2021, average annual particulate pollution levels in Pakistan increased by 49.9% resulting in a reduction of 1.5 years in life expectancy as a result.

As a result of the high levels of pollution in Punjab, Islamabad, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – the three most polluted provinces of Pakistan – 65.5 million people or about 69.5% of Pakistan’s population are estimated to lose between 3.7 to 4.6 years of life expectancy if the current pollution levels persist and between 2.7 to 3.6 years relative to the national standard if the current pollution levels persist.

There was also a statement in the report which stated that if Pakistan were to meet the WHO’s guidelines, Karachi residents would gain 2.7 years of life expectancy, Lahore residents would gain 7.5 years, and Islamabad residents would gain about 4.5 years.

It is also noted that India is responsible for about 59% of the world’s increase in pollution since 2013, according to the report.

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